Posts Tagged With: dog training

Monsters are Everywhere – When You’re a Puppy

The world can be a big and scary place if you’re a puppy!  As you’re socializing your puppy and taking him/her to new places, keep in mind that things that seem completely normal to you can be very frightening to a young pup.

If your puppy suddenly seems afraid of something, try getting down on his/her level to see if you can understand (A) what they’re actually afraid of and (B) what they find scary about it.  A statue in a park might not seem scary to you or me, but if you get down to a puppy’s level and look at it from that height, you may find it more intimidating than you realized.

Such was the case with Ellie the Warrior Princess earlier this week when I took her with me to get the car inspected.  As we were leaving, Ellie began to growl and bark towards the road.  It wasn’t immediately clear what was upsetting her, so I had to get down to her level and track her gaze.  That was when I realized that she had spotted a bright red fire hydrant way up on the hill by the road.

When your puppy is panicking over something you deem silly, it may be tempting just to walk away and avoid feeling like you’re causing a scene.  In reality, it goes a long way if you can help your puppy overcome that fear instead of just leaving it to linger in the back of his mind.

So, how does one help her puppy overcome a fear of a fire hydrant?  You walk up to it, crouch next to it, and pet it like a dog – all the while encouraging your puppy to come check it out with you.  I may have looked quite silly petting it and trying to introduce my puppy to a fire hydrant next to a four lane road that day, but it’s worth it to make sure she continues to gain confidence and overcome her fears.

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A few tips on overcoming fearful objects:

  1. Say hi to it yourself!  If you look like you don’t want to touch it or get near it, why on earth would you puppy want to do that?
  2. Do not coddle your pup.  Resist the urge to hold, cuddle, and coo to your dog as he backs away or growls.  Speak confidently and calmly, and make sure you convey to your pup that it’s really no big deal.
  3. Practice!  When you’re out and about and see something weird, encourage your pup to check it out, sniff it, and say hi even if he hasn’t actually noticed it yet.  Get ahead of the weird fears and suspicious thoughts – lead the charge and say hi first!

If your puppy encounters a fearful object and you aren’t able to work through it all in one sitting, try to return to the spot or object again later to continue practicing and working through the anxiety.  Avoid the temptation to drag your puppy up to something and try instead to encourage independent forward movement by making it look fun!

 

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Prince Tucker had to learn how to meet weird new objects all the time as a Future Leader Dog puppy, too!

Categories: Behavior, Blog, Ellie the Warrior Princess, Fearful dogs, Puppy, Puppy Socialization | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Puppy Teeth – do they all fall out?

Yes!

I go over some basic oral hygiene tips in my Puppy Preschool classes and I often find that first time puppy owners aren’t totally sure they understand those pointy little needles in their puppy’s mouth!

Yes, just like human children, your puppy has a set of “baby” teeth and yes, they will all fall out!  The good news is that your puppy will lose those sharp baby teeth much faster than a human kid.  Somewhere around four months, your pup will start replacing those baby teeth with adult teeth.  Even though the puppy teeth won’t be around long, do yourself a favor and go ahead and get in the habit of routine teeth brushing!

Dental care is extremely important for your dog, and it’s never too early to work on your dog’s tolerance for it.  Get in your practice with that awkward doggie toothbrush with teeth that will fall out anyway!

It’s also very important to remember that, just like a human kid, your puppy NEEDS to chew on things!  Make sure your pup has plenty of appropriate items for the teething stage – and don’t be overly alarmed if you see a little blood once in a while as teeth get loose or fall out.

We are currently going through the teething stage in our house – and we chew on a lot of nylabones and ice cubes!  You can check out the images below to see where Ellie has lost a few of her front teeth.  And before you ask, yes, those super sharp canine teeth are usually some of the last ones to go!

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Categories: Blog, Ellie the Warrior Princess, Puppy, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dog Parks – Good or Bad?

I get the “dog park question” quite frequently.  Is it good?  Is it bad?  Is it fun?  Is it unsafe?

In my opinion?  It can, and will at times, be all of the above.

I know dog people who swear by them and those who swear they will never set foot in one.

My two cents?  Use your best judgement and make the decision that fits you and your dog while keeping in mind the following:

  1.  Not all dogs are, or want to be, social butterflies.  Dog parks can be a great place for dogs who seem to love everybody and can think of nothing better than a field full of strange new friends.  However, for dogs who are shy, introverted, or no-nonsense, it’s probably not their idea of a good time.
  2. People are irresponsible.  It doesn’t matter how responsible you are as a dog owner, you cannot control the owners around you.  When at the dog park, your primary focus should be – you guessed it – YOUR DOG.  Dog parks are not the place to do your yoga, get lost in a good book, or take a nap on a bench.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what a lot of folks do – at the expense of those around them.  You have to be your dog’s advocate – if you see them being bullied, go to their rescue.  And by all means, if your dog IS the bully, put a stop to it!
  3. Vaccinations are not guaranteed.  Now, if your dog park is owned/run by a humane society or other animal welfare organization, you may be required to show proof of vaccinations to gain access.  That being said, I have been told by multiple people that they share their gate code/park access credentials with friends.  While those folks no doubt believe they are doing their friends a favor, if those dogs aren’t properly vaccinated, they’re doing everyone else a disservice.
  4.  It’s a playground – accidents happen.  As you can read in this article – “How a Routine Trip to the Dog Park Ended With a Broken Hip” – it’s not just dogs who have the potential to get hurt!  Most dogs possess great athletic ability, but that doesn’t mean they never run into something!  There is also the possibility of run-ins with unfriendly dogs.  I have personally witnessed a person being backed up onto a bench by an aggressive dog – the owner was on the other side of the park and had no idea his dog was being a bully until I yelled at him.

 

After pointing out some of the shortcomings of dog parks, you might think I’m totally against them.  I’m not!  Tucker has frequented several parks and has, for the most part, had really great experiences!  That being said, I didn’t take Tucker to a dog park until he was a full blown adult – physical and mentally mature.  He was a well rounded adult with a happy go lucky personality and good manners.  Even so, we had our fair share of weird experiences and days when we left early because someone else got out of hand.

I don’t know that we’ll ever take our new German Shepherd to one, but if we do, I can tell you that I’ll be watching her, and everyone else, like a hawk – and we will leave at the first sign of trouble.

Categories: Behavior, Blog, Dog Parks | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Always Judge a Book by Its Cover – Bruno

Before reading further, take a look at the photo below and make your best guess about this dog’s breed:

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Have you guessed yet?  Don’t scroll down until you do!

 

 

 

How about now?

 

 

 

Now, the title of this post should have clued you in that the answer isn’t as obvious as it appears.  If we saw Bruno and his owner walking through the park, most of us would probably immediately think “Labrador Mix.”  And we would be wrong.

Bruno is a hound/shepherd mix.  How do we know?  Bruno’s owner has had the good fortune to meet both of the parents (who belong to friends of hers), which is something most owners of mixed breeds are unable to do.

Why does this matter?  Why am I bothering to tell you all of this?

I want you to understand that we can’t always judge a book by its cover when it comes to mixed breed dogs.  Many a qualified person has misidentified a mixed breed – it’s quite easy to do, as evidenced by the photo above.  So, as you see dogs out in public or at the shelter, try to judge them based on their character and personalities, and not solely by their fur color or head shape.  It might open the door to making a new and unique furry friend!

 

 

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The Prince and the Pea

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I often affectionately refer to my faithful Labrador Retriever as “Prince” Tucker. Why? Because he seems to believe he should be treated like royalty and he’s extremely picky.

While Tucker may not be quite as sensitive as the princess in the fairytale, “The Princess and the Pea,” who is able to feel one pea through twenty mattresses and twenty feather beds, he is still quite princely.

Several weeks ago, my very obedient Tucker suddenly started balking at the idea of going to bed. Tucker has slept in the same crate since he was a puppy (almost six years), and up until this point, had never had an issue with it. Our routine has always been pretty much the same – he goes outside for a break, comes inside to get his nightly pills and evening snack, and goes to bed. All of a sudden one day, he started sneaking back to his bed in the living room after his snack instead of going to his crate. When my husband or I would ask him to go to his crate, he would hang his head sadly, and, slowly but surely, plod over to his crate.

We were both quite perplexed for a while until one day when I decided to wash the mat in his crate. As I pulled it out, I realized just how thin it had become.

And that’s when it hit me: the Prince had decided he preferred the very fluffy bed in the living room over the worn out old mat in his crate.

The next weekend, I bought a new fluffy bed and laid it on top of the old mat.

And guess who doesn’t balk at going to bed anymore!

The lesson is this – sometimes, it’s necessary to apply what you know about your dog’s personality when you’re trying to figure out what’s causing a certain behavior.  Remember that dogs, like people, all see the world a little differently.

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Happy as a clam now that he has extra padding.

Categories: Behavior, Blog, Prince Tucker Problems | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Old Dogs CAN Learn New Tricks

“At what age is a dog too old to learn new tricks?”

A woman stopped me on my way into Chick-fil-a this weekend to ask this question.

My brief, simplified answer (on my way towards a delicious chicken sandwich) was this – there is no official age at which a dog stops learning, so long as they are not actually suffering from doggy dementia.

There are, however, caveats to that statement.

1. Physical limitations – don’t ask your senior dog to do something he/she is realistically unable to do, or that would cause him/her pain. If you’ve noticed your dog is slow to get up, or your vet has already confirmed some age related joint problems, shy away from teaching physically demanding tricks or tasks. If your dog’s hips are painful for him, don’t teach him a new trick that involves jumping.  Gauge your training and your “workouts” on your dog’s abilities and the reactions you observe.  Like people, some senior dogs are capable of much more than others.

2. Old habits die hard – don’t expect your older dog to easily give up habits that have been lifelong. If you’ve allowed him on the couch from puppyhood, don’t expect to teach him new furniture boundaries overnight. Remember that patience and consistency are key when trying to change a current behavior.

On your quest to teach your old dog new tricks, remember to set practical goals that are attainable for your senior dog and his/her physical/mental state.

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This is Dingo – our family dog from 1996 to 2012.  While she was definitely okay with jumping up on things (as seen here) as a younger dog, her hips began to degrade around middle age.  As a senior, we put her on medications to help with the arthritis, didn’t encourage such “dancing” or jumping, and bought a small set of stairs to help her into the car.

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It’s Not Worth It

Before you begin reading, it is important to understand that everything I’m about to say is rooted in the following belief:

Canine Life ≠ Human Life

During this Christmas season, I have had several conversations with people about dogs and kids.  Holidays tend to put unfamiliar dogs with unfamiliar kids and, unfortunately, that sometimes leads to horrible consequences.  For the sake of the following information and advice, let’s assume that the child and dog do not belong to the same household.

  • To the PARENTS/ADULTS – I have seen many a child behave inappropriately around a dog.  Please be teaching the children in your life what it means to interact appropriately with a dog.  That means…
    • no pulling on ears, tails, or lips
    • no riding on a dog’s back like a pony
    • no poking eyeballs
    • always asking before you run up to a strange dog to pet it
    • no sitting on the dog
    • no removing toys/bones from the dog’s mouth unless you’re told it’s okay

If the child is too young to fully understand those lessons, then that child should always be ACTIVELY supervised when interacting with the dog.  It’s your job as the adult to watch the child, watch the dog’s body language, and end the playtime as soon as you see signs of stress for the dog (or child).  Even if the child IS old enough to know these lessons, it’s always a good idea to supervise playtime when your child is with someone else’s pet, especially if you are unsure how the dog will respond.

  • To the OWNERS/ADULTS – I have seen many dogs with aggressive or impatient tendencies be allowed to interact with children far past the point when it was safe.  Please be willing to put your dog away or use protective gear if you are unsure how your dog might react to the quick moving, unpredictable actions of a child.  That means…
    • utilizing a crate to keep the dog secure and separate from children (make sure the child is not allowed (or not able) to poke the dog through the bars)
    • putting the dog away in a closed off room or yard away from the stress and commotion
    • using a muzzle if the dog has no choice but to be out around children (make sure to introduce it properly and to get one that allows the dog to breathe/pant freely – don’t forget to take breaks and offer water)

You may be appalled that I would suggest the use of a muzzle, but if that muzzle keeps a child from loosing an eye, getting a scar, or even receiving a lethal bite, isn’t it worth it?  And remember, just because a small dog or toy breed can’t kill you, that doesn’t mean it can’t take a child’s eye out or cause serious physical/emotional damage.

This holiday season, be wise when it comes to dogs and kids.  Remember that dogs are still animals and that it’s your job as the adult to supervise, mediate, and sometimes restrict interaction between kids and dogs if there are any signs of aggression.  A bitten child is not worth it!

Above – Photos from Tucker’s trip to Savannah, GA, spring 2012.  We met this child on the street with his family.  His father made sure to ask if it was okay to pet him and the kid had pretty good manners when it came to petting gently.  You’ll also notice that I’m not standing several feet away talking to my friends or the kid’s family – I’m sitting right next to Tucker, watching his behavior, watching the kid, and making sure that everyone stays happy and healthy.  You’ll see in the first photo that the kid went in for a “hug” of Tucker’s head.  Tucker is okay with hugs, but not all dogs feel the same.  If your dog is great with petting and head scratches but not a fan of hugs, don’t be afraid to tell people who approach you that a hug is not okay!  (Photo Credit – Beth Anne Ho)

Categories: Behavior, Dogs and Kids, Holidays | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tired Puppy is a Good Puppy

I imagine that the vast majority of books written about puppyhood use some variation of the phrase, “a tired puppy is a good puppy.”

There’s a good reason for that: it’s true!

Tired puppies are much less likely to get into trouble, because they simply don’t have the energy for it.  If you play fetch until your little pup can barely hold his eyes open, chances are, your shoes are safe for the next few hours.

Sometimes, wearing a puppy out can feel like a daunting task, especially if the weather outside isn’t the most welcoming.  Here are a few suggestions for indoor activities to help encourage some long puppy naps:

  1. Obedience – Yes, you read that correctly.  Start working on obedience!  I don’t care if it’s day one and your puppy is only 7 weeks old – get started!  The earlier you begin teaching basic obedience commands and manners, the better off you will be in the future.  “Sit” is a great place to start because most puppies will naturally fall into a sit if you hold ANYTHING of interest over their heads.
  2. Handling Exercises – Practice handling your puppy so that future visits to the veterinarian and groomer are pleasant and stress-free experiences.  You may be surprised at just how much effort is required for a puppy to hold still long enough to have all of his toes touched!
  3. Toys – Make sure your puppy has several appropriate toys to play with, and encourage appropriate playtime!  Play fetch, tug on a rope, chew on a bone – but make sure that ALL of those “toys” came from the pet aisle.  Don’t set your puppy up for trouble by encouraging playtime with socks, shoes, children’s toys, or other household items that you don’t want chewed up in the future.

All of these activities should be fun in and of themselves, but sometimes, the best part is the long puppy nap that comes afterwards!  (But don’t forget, as soon as that puppy wakes up, take him outside for a bathroom break!)

 

 

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A tired puppy is a good puppy!  Tucker June 2011

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A tired puppy is a good puppy in the car, too!

 

 

 

Categories: Behavior, Blog, Puppy | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are You Thankful for Your Dog?

Are you thankful for your dog?

Your immediate response might be, “Of course I am!  What a ridiculous question.”

If that is the case, then my second question to you, next Monday post-thanksgiving holiday, would be, “Are you STILL thankful for your dog?”

Did your dog behave well around friends and family this holiday?  Did he/she respect your guests’ personal bubbles, resist the urge to jump on grandma, and leave the feast on the kitchen counter alone?

If you are already fearful your dog may NOT be a good Thanksgiving guest this week, here are a few things to consider:

Dogs are not greater than people

Hear me – I love my dog immensely, but he is not as important as a person.  If I were afraid that Tucker would jump on and injure a guest (especially an older, more frail guest like a grandparent) he would not be allowed to participate in Thanksgiving events (or any other family gathering).  Here’s the thing – treating your dog like a dog for a few hours IS NOT CRUEL.  This is another great example of why I advocate crate training from an early age – if your dog cannot be trusted, a crate is the safest place for him/her to be.  I’m not suggesting you leave your furry friend cooped up all day or all weekend.  If you need to employ a crate, make sure to schedule times for bathroom breaks and exercise.  Remember, a few hours of boredom for your dog is a low price to pay to avoid a hip replacement for grandma.

Leashes are a great invention

If your dog has not been crate trained, or you just can’t bear the thought of locking Fido up for a few hours, a leash could be a great second option.  If you don’t trust him/her not to bug guests, eat leftovers off the counter, or sneak off and destroy your shoes, tethering him/her to yourself with a leash can be a great way to allow your dog some very supervised freedom.  As your friends/family begin to trickle into your living room to watch football or reminisce the day away, grab a chew toy and leash and require your dog to lay next to you on the floor.  If you haven’t done any training, getting your dog to lay calmly at your feet may be a task, but it isn’t impossible, especially if you’ve made time to include some doggy exercise in your day.

There’s still time

Whether you already know that Thanksgiving is likely to be a disaster or you’re reading this post-Thanksgiving and you KNOW it was a disaster, don’t lose heart – there is still time before Christmas!  If you’re unsatisfied with your dog’s holiday behavior, now is a great time to start looking for a trainer in your area who can help you work through problem behaviors.  While few long-standing bad behaviors can be fixed overnight, there is definitely still time to make good progress before Santa comes to town.  Don’t be satisfied with poor dog behavior – make the time to discover your dog’s full potential!

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In this photo from Thanksgiving 2012, Tucker snuggles with me while I eat a plate of leftovers.  Does your dog have the self control to sit with you (or on you) while you eat without begging or trying to steal a bite?  Side note: Tucker had just been released from the Leader Dogs for the Blind training program the month before, so he was all about making up for lost time when it came to recliners and snuggles. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Behavior, Blog, Holidays | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Fake Service Dogs – Why It’s Never Okay

I just read an article on Fusion.net titled, “Don’t scam the service dog system just because you love being with your pet.”

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I think this article does a great job of quickly and simply explaining some of the problems legitimate service dog handlers are currently facing.  I encourage you to check it out at this link: Fusion.net

I doubt I have many friends who don’t know exactly how I feel about fake service dogs.  I find it appalling that anyone would pass off their pet as a service dog.  To me, it’s just as offensive as illegitimately using a handicap parking space.  Now, I know that there are people who do this who don’t understand that what they’re doing is actually harmful to someone else – they aren’t being malicious.  However, in this day and age, with the educational tools at our fingertips, I see no reason why anyone should be confused about what is or is not allowed.

 

Allow me to expound on the information that is most often misrepresented:

  1. Service dogs are NOT the same as therapy dogs or emotional support dogs.
    • Most dog lovers will tell you that their dog provides comfort, support, and joy in times of stress.  That’s wonderful – mine does, too!  However, those general qualities do not make your pet a service dog.  I do not have a right to bring Tucker into Walmart just because I enjoy having him with me.
    • Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks related to their owner’s disability.  People often compare PTSD dogs to emotional support dogs – they are not the same.  PTSD dogs have trained skills.  Some typical skills/commands are: standing between the handler and other people, notifying the handler when his/her name is called, and waking the handler from a nightmare.
  2. Service dogs are NOT required to wear or carry identification.
    • The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) specifically states that service dog handlers are not required to show identification or discuss the specifics of their disability with anyone.  If a dog enters your place of business, you may ask only two questions: is that a service dog, and if so, what service does it perform?
    • Personally, I think every business who claims to certify service dogs or promotes selling service dog materials to non-service dog handlers should be penalized.  I have seen numerous businesses advertise that they can certify your dog and add your name to a national registry.  Don’t waste your money folks – there is no such thing.  And yet, service dog materials ARE important since the ADA does NOT require certifications – handlers typically want something that notifies the public that the dog is working and should not be distracted.  It’s just another fine example of a product that was likely intended for good being abused.
  3. Service dogs CAN be asked to leave a business if they are not under control or are not housebroken.
    • In my experience, most legitimate service dogs don’t have many issues in this department.  True service dogs are highly trained and are typically very well-mannered.  Even so, if, for whatever reason, the handler is unable to control the dog, they may legally be asked to leave the premises.

 

Why does all of this matter?  Because fake service dogs, who quite often behave badly, give real service dogs a bad reputation and cause business owners to deny access to legitimate service dogs.  I have spoken to blind individuals with dog guides who have been denied access simply because someone assumed their dog was a fake.  It happens folks, but it shouldn’t.

Help me educate those who are unaware and call out those who are abusing the system.

If you have questions, please ask.

Here’s a link to a portion of the ADA: ADA – Service Animals

Chelsea Cutler, Certified Professional Trainer

Below: Future Leader Dog Tucker at five months old, bored out of his mind while I gave a presentation at Western Carolina University.  (2011)  Note: In the state of NC, service dogs in training with their trainer are given the same access rights as working service dogs.

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